Aleister Crowley in his regalia
Aleister Crowley (12/10/1875–01/12/ 1947 remains as one of the most notorious occultists and magicians in recent history. Raised as a member of the exclusive Plymouth Brethren, Crowley was later initiated, to become relatively prominent in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley’s split with this organisation caused a major schism within the group, the Golden Dawn subsequently stating that his influence on their methods has been highly exaggerated.
Crowley went on to establish his Ordo Templis Orientis and later, the Abbey of Thelema, sited in Cefalu, Sicily. During this time he built links with Freemasonary, claiming initiation into several high ranks though not recognised by the Grand Lodge of England. He also built contact with many influential politicians, movie stars and many modern pop stars. A picture of Crowley is on the cover sleeve of The Beatles 1967 album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, appearing between the Indian Guru, Sri Yukteswar and Mae West. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame also held and intent interest in Crowley and owned some of his clothing, manuscripts and ritual objects.
Crowley can only be described as, following the left hand path, to use what is rather annoying terminology to any serious occultist. In 1934, he lost a court case against the artist Nina Hamnett who, in her book, The Laughing Torso (published 1932), called Crowley a black magician. In his summing up the judge, Mr. Justice Swift said:
I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by the man (Crowley) who describes himself to you as the greatest living poet.
Crowley viewed himself as a Satanist and Devil worshiper, experimented with drugs, taking the name for himself as The Great Beast and often applying the number 666 in self-description. In the opinion of the mainstream esoteric community, Crowley was self-serving and without interest in gaining or promoting genuine occult understanding other than that which was to his own benefit. As such, he was largely ostracised, though did have and to a certain extent still does, have a following of those that hold similar inclinations.
Crowley disappeared fairly suddenly from public view. Some say he was in decline but nevertheless, his disappearance was still sudden and total and few people know why. This reason is what is known in occult circles as, The Paris Incident.
The Paris Incident came about because Aleister Crowley decided to raise Pan. Whether this was because he saw this as a way to reclaim his declining influence is open to speculation. Whatever the cause, he arranged to undertake this ritual at a small hotel in Paris belonging to one of his followers.
A top room in the hotel was cleared and prepared according to Crowley’s instructions. When ready, Crowley gave strict instructions to his followers that he was not to be disturbed whatever happened and whatever sounds were heard coming from inside the room. Then Crowley, along with his assistant, MacAleister purified and dressed in ornate robes of Crowley’s design. They entered the room and the door was locked. All others present retired to a downstairs room in the hotel to wait out events.
The first problem here is that Pan is a misunderstood character. The connection between Pan and the devil was started by early Church missionaries, probably because of Pan’s description as ugly, cloven hooved, goat legged, with horns etc. A connection was also made between Pan and the ‘Horned God’ but the ‘Horned God’ description relates to Cernunnos, another nature deity. Pan is neither Cernunnos nor the devil or Satan. He is a faun or satyr, a nature spirit who rose to become king of the satyrs.
It is impossible to state conclusively that Crowley, in raising Pan, believed he was raising the devil, though connection prevailing at that time was that Pan and the Devil were one of the same. Occult books of this time, including those by Dennis Wheatley, another renowned occultist of the era, also make the mistake of connecting the image of Pan with that of the devil.
Crowley set out to invoke Pan. During the night, those waiting down below heard load banging and screaming. This grew so loud that they went upstairs thinking whether to enter the room or not. This was locked from inside and would mean breaking down the door. Crowley’s instructions prevailed so despite the noise and shouting inside, they went back downstairs to wait the dawn.
Dawn came, neither Crowley, nor his assistant MacAleister appeared. Several hours went by with no further sound from the room above. Eventually those waiting went upstairs and after knocking and receiving no reply, broke down the door.
The seen inside has been described as something from a horror movie. Furniture was broken and splintered to pieces. Both Crowley and his assistant were naked, scratched, bruised and battered, their robes torn to shreds. Mac Aleister was dead.
The police were called leading to an enquiry and trial, but Crowley was unable to answer any questions. He was incoherent, babbled incessantly and was eventually judged insane and sent to a mental institution. Crowley was released several years later but never regained his full faculties, or powers. He died on 1st December 1947 at Netherwood in England in relative obscurity.
There may never be a definitive explanation for what occurred in that locked room, but this confusion concerning Pan’s identity offers one that, from the occult perspective, is hard to dismiss.
This explanation is based on a particular and seemingly unimportant story in the mythology of Pan. It concerns Dionysus, another character from Greek mythology. Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry is described in some accounts as being man-womanish, often acting effete and feminine, from which readers can draw their own conclusion.
Dionysus and Pan were friends. They and Selinus, another satyr and the Maenads, Dionysus’ female followers, are all recorded as often partying together and playing tricks on one another. It is the result of one of these tricks that offers an explanation.
Pan is recorded as falling in love with and being rejected by, due to his ugly appearance, the water nymph Syrinx. The same occurred when he fell in love with the nymphs Echo and Pitys. There are further accounts of similar rejection. As a trick, Dionysus was encouraged to dress as a woman, using a wig and make-up to disguise his appearance. Dionysus then pretended to be attracted to Pan who, due to previous rejection, fell madly in love. They are recorded as kissing openly before the ruse was revealed.
Pan’s reaction was one of humiliation and embarrassment. He flew into a rage during which he cursed that he would never again trust any mortal who approached him dressed in robes and any that did would feel the full wrath of his anger.
Crowley and his assistant set out to raise Pan dressed in their full occult regalia. When the locked door was finally broken down, both had been stripped naked, their robes ripped to shreds. MacAleister was dead and Crowley turned mad and sent to an asylum.
Coincidence, the wrath of Pan or some other explanation? The Paris Incident is an occult mystery, but one that provides a lesson to all those who in future, might consider evoking Pan. Any ritual to Pan should be performed without robes and regalia.
Peter Rogers (author) from Plymouth on November 07, 2014:
You weren't there.
Brockton Swain on November 07, 2014:
You know absolutely nothing about Crowley or his life or his work ... before you post about the life if a man learn a little of your subject ... not one word you write reflects a modicum of truth. Shame on you for such ignorance.
GwennyOh on May 23, 2013:
Thanks for taking the time to correct me on my misunderstanding. I love your articles. They are amazing!
Peter Rogers (author) from Plymouth on May 23, 2013:
Sorry I think I haven't explained this well. I'm not trying to tell you there are boundaries to your faith, the exact opposite in fact, that relying on faith sometimes creates boundaries to the ability to expand faith. The process is, 'coming to know' where by freeing your faith from artificial boundaries imposed by others, you expand your faith so you 'come to know' what is true.
I wouldn't dream of shoving what I think, believe etc down anyone's throat. In fact also the opposite. Don't believe a word I say, or anyone else. Test everything. Hammer it to bits, then if it stands the test you 'come to know' whether there may be some truth in it. Accept what you want, reject what you don't. And as for me saying you are not wise, again the opposite. You show you are by your statement saying you determine your own values. You are also right in saying 'no one else can.'
It is your path and yours alone.
GwennyOh on May 22, 2013:
No one can tell me what my faith is about, is that where you were going? Trying to tell me what boundaries are on my faith? I am ahead of you there. I don't follow Paganism as so many do nowadays. I have my own brand. But that aside. I determine my own values of what my faith is to me. No one else can.
I wanted to respond to your query about black and white magic, but the gist isn't clear of what you are asking. I think you are asking me if I recognize that a white and a black magic spell, under some circumstances can be one and the same. Basically identified by the application alone.
I don't believe it. If a spell causes harm to another via intent or knowing, or if it may cause someone to do something against their usual choice - it is black magic and cannot be white.
In the last sentence, you come across as telling me, whom you do not know, that I am not wise and need to listen to your words as you are wise. I certainly don't believe that. :)
It is my belief that those that are truly wise do not shove their aspect of belief down the throats of others.
Peter Rogers (author) from Plymouth on May 22, 2013:
I'm not saying it hasn't been made necessary to define a division between good and bad. but it remains and artificial division. Magic is just magic, a tool. The user defines the devision by their actions and no true witch, who understands the principle illustrated by the scale, or balance, would practice 'black' magic.
Did you know that you can cast a curse that is 'black' magic, and also cast a curse that is 'white' magic, or at least not 'black' magic?
The difference is defined by the principle of the scales, weighing the purpose. Oh, and paganism/witchcraft is not about belief, nor faith. Never believe anything and you'll go a long way towards coming to know.
GwennyOh on May 21, 2013:
I say you are certainly entitled to your beliefs, but I do prefer there be a division (although I do agree, there doesn't have to or need to be one in certain circumstances).
I look at it this way... if some of us couldn't claim to be 'good witches' or practitioners of magic as opposed to 'black magic' then we would set ourselves up to be torn apart by zealots as was done in the past. This sort of thing still happens today.
I recently saw YouTube video... a woman who had dedicated her life to Paganism... each time she found love, the man's family would shun her as a witch.
In the end, to find her place in life she felt it necessary to walk away from Paganism. Obviously she was weakened by the attacks; I believe most would not be. She became one of them and now is a zealot too! An anti Paganism zealot yet too! I'm sorry to say that I can't find the video to put the link here.
But the point was, the division of crafts into light and dark makes it easier for those who work it 'lightly' to avoid being exposed to religious zealousness. That said, no one deserves to be judged for their beliefs or practices.
Whether what others do is 'wrong' or 'right' should have no bearing on those that don't agree with their practices, so in that sense you are perfectly right on.
Peter Rogers (author) from Plymouth on May 21, 2013:
I question this whole issue of black - white - pink - red - blue magic. Magic isn't black or white or any other colour. It's just magic, a tool, like a knife that can be used for something beneficial, like cutting a loaf of bread, or something vicious. The mind and spirit of the user denotes the purpose for which any tool is used, not the tool.
GwennyOh on May 20, 2013:
The little I have read so far on Crowley suggests that he wasn't a black magician at all, and that he was prone to outrageous behaviours to gain notoriety for publicity's sake. It's hard to know for sure.
This has me interested though. I haven't paid him that much attention in the past but for reading up on the history of symbolism within his Thoth Tarot card deck. I now am curious to read more.
Whatever he was up to, he was obviously a brave man.
Dan Barfield from Gloucestershire, England, UK on March 14, 2013:
Fascinating hub Radical Rog! I find occultism very interesting - I had not learned about Crowley's "Paris incident" before today. Most diverting :)
OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on August 06, 2012:
Thanks! Never heard of "The Devil and All His Works," - I'll be looking for a copy of that one.
Peter Rogers (author) from Plymouth on August 06, 2012:
Hi Disappearinghead, I did leave open another possibility, this is why it's a mystery.
OldWitchcraft, this is from a recorded conversation between Dennis Wheatley and and one of Crowley's close followers identified as Z, recounted in part in Wheatley's 'The devil and all his Works' page 276 in my version. As for the court case, those who use this power for their own ends tend to find it comes back to bite them, and fails when they need it the most.
And Joseph, I know he continued writing after, at Netherwood where he died.
Kitty Fields from Summerland on August 06, 2012:
Radical Rog - Very interesting! The bit of info that I've learned about Crowley has come from several books, the first one I ever read with him included was Sybil Leek's Diary of a Witch. She says in the book that he was a friend of her family's when she was a child and that he taught her some of the craft...until he went off the deep end. Thank you for clearing up the Pan thing, I can't stand it when people confuse him with Satan...two totally different entities. Thanks again...too intriguing!
Joseph on August 06, 2012:
Except that he didn't go to an asylum, he continued writing and publishing. Also, he never raised Pan with MacAleister in a hotel in Paris. Also, MacAleister didn't die. Furthermore, there was no such person as MacAleister.
OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on August 05, 2012:
I didn't know Crowley lost such a court case. That's funny. If he was much of a black magician, surely he would have won. Maybe he just didn't know any American Hoodoo! LOL!
Re conjuring of Pan: Not so far-fetched maybe. I was just listening to a documentary on Scientology last night that talked about his buddy L.Ron doing a working to conjure Babalon - which was the [egregore of?] the present Church of Scientology.
Incidentally, in which book is the Paris incident involving the Pan conjuration recorded? Thanks!
Disappearinghead from Wales, UK on August 05, 2012:
Of course Crowley and MacAleister may have gotten involved in a struggle where Crowley killed him and feigned insanity to escape 1st degree murder. Possibly not supernatural occurances at all?
HeatherDRoberts on August 05, 2012:
I love Aleister Crowley, nice post!